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Capito hopes new Congress will take up Violence Against Women Act

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said last week she hopes the federal Violence Against Women Act, which was allowed to lapse for the first time in nearly two decades by the last Congress, will be taken up by the new Congress.

Capito was part of a conference committee that was supposed to sort out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill to reauthorize the law.

"Many members, myself included, are disappointed that we could not find enough common ground to pass a bill in both chambers last Congress. I hope and believe that this is not the end of VAWA debate and that we can come together to pass this important reauthorization," Capito said.

The Senate passed its version of the bill 68-31 in April, with Democrats joined by more than a dozen Republicans. The bill added new domestic violence protections for victims in three groups: American Indians, undocumented immigrants and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.

The House approved its version of the bill in May, without the new provisions.

On July 30, Capito was chosen by the House Republican leadership to be a member of a bipartisan panel created to resolve differences between versions of the legislation passed by the Senate and the House.

At the time, Capito said the legislation remained critical to ending domestic violence.

"As the former chair of the Congressional Caucus on Women's Issues, I am committed to ending domestic violence. Supporting programs like the Violence Against Women Act is an essential step in achieving this goal," she said.

"Especially in rural communities like West Virginia where victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in rural and remote communities face unique obstacles in their efforts to escape abusive and dangerous relationships, support provided by VAWA can literally be lifesaving," Capito said.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline, created under VAWA, receives more than 22,000 calls a month.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who voted for the original version of the bill in 1994, plans to reintroduce new VAWA legislation in the near future.

"House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor refused to budge. Ignoring voices in their own party and the clear message sent by American women in the last election, they instead decided to side with the far right wing of their party by allowing the bill to expire," Murray told CNN in a statement updated Friday afternoon.

Murray criticized the "political gamesmanship" in Congress.

"Every moment the House continues to delay is another moment vulnerable women are left without protections they deserve....

"One of our absolute first priorities must be passing an inclusive and bipartisan bill to extend protections to the millions of new women included in the Senate bill. As a nation, we cannot accept further discrimination or delay from House Republican leaders."

"Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act continues to be a top priority for me. As the former president of a YWCA that was a leader in combating domestic violence, this is an issue I care very deeply about," Capito said last week.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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